Seven nominated for Pequot Lakes Teacher of the Year

Every year, Education Minnesota Pequot Lakes recognizes a Teacher of the Year in the Pequot Lakes School District. The 2019 Teacher of the Year will be announced at the Employee Recognition on Wednesday, May 1, at Breezy Point Resort.

Echo Journal file photo.

Every year, Education Minnesota Pequot Lakes recognizes a Teacher of the Year in the Pequot Lakes School District. The 2019 Teacher of the Year will be announced at the Employee Recognition on Wednesday, May 1, at Breezy Point Resort.

Following is information about the seven nominees - Angie Klein, Andrea Neva, Jason Roepke, Kathy Saxvold, Ann Schommer, Ben Starns and Jamie Wagner:

Angie Klein

Klein has been a teacher for 17 years, five of those at Pequot Lakes High School. She has taught English and College in the Schools comp, literature and creative writing classes. She has served as the varsity speech coach, Gay Straight Alliance adviser and student council adviser.

Klein has served as the EMPL High School Building Rights representative, as a member of the Social Justice Committee at Lutheran Church of the Cross and on the District and Building Leadership Teams at Pequot Lakes High School.


She received her Bachelor's Degree in English from Minnesota State University in Moorhead and her Master's Degree in teaching and learning from Northern State University.

Awards include: 2019 Section 6A Speech Coach of the Year, 2019 Section 23A Speech Coach of the Year, 2018 Section 23A Speech Coach of the Year, 2018 National Joint Powers Alliance Teacher of Excellence and 2006 Huron (South Dakota) High School Teacher of the Year.

Klein's philosophy of education: "My philosophy of education is two-fold. First, I believe all students can learn. Second, it is important for students to have a good relationship with their teachers. Students who don't like their teachers won't work for teachers whom they don't like. Building positive relationships with students is the key to education. I believe providing students a positive experience is important to achieving educational success."

Andrea Neva

Neva received her teaching degree from St. Cloud State University and has been teaching for 27 years, 22 at Pequot Lakes. She is currently a kindergarten teacher and has taught first grade and worked for the Brainerd Area Education Center.

Neva's school involvement includes being a member of the Eagle View Building Leadership Team, Student Focus Team and Literacy Team. She has extended her professional learning through the following Alternative Career Pathways projects: Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity, Love and Logic, ESGI, and the Kindergarten Co-Teaching Literacy Model, which was nominated as a Sourcewell Team of Excellence.

She has served as an assistant tennis coach, Girl Scout leader, children's chapel teacher and a member of the PTA.

Neva's philosophy of education: "As a teacher, it is my goal to make sure each of my students feels loved and valued. Using a variety of instructional strategies, I meet the needs of all my students. It is important to provide an environment that is both encouraging and positive so every student can reach their highest potential."


Jason Roepke

Roepke has spent five of his 12 years as a teacher working in the social studies department at Pequot Lakes High School. He previously was a teacher in the Pine River-Backus School District.

Roepke is a member of EMPL. He is a high school Building Leadership Team member, 10th-grade Lunch Bunch coordinator, assistant baseball coach, founder of the Pequot Lakes Intramural Basketball League, summer T-ball coach for Pequot Lakes Community Education and member of the Nisswa Lightning baseball team.

Roepke organized the Lightning Youth Baseball Camp from 2012-16 and the Diamond Club Summer Baseball Camp in 2018. He was a PR-B Teacher of the Year nominee in 2012, NJPA Teacher of Excellence in 2012 and two-time Upper Mississippi Conference Softball Coach of the Year.

Roepke received his Bachelor of Arts Degree in history, 5-12 licensure from Southwest Minnesota State University in 2006 and his Master of Science in educational leadership from Southwest Minnesota State University in 2013.

Roepke's philosophy of education: "I think most people who know me, know that I am really just a big kid. I love school, I love kids and I love to learn. I carry this attitude into my classroom each day and teach with enthusiasm while trying to make every class period worthwhile for each student. I am a product of many great educators, many who had a great deal of patience. To me, every student has value and I try to treat each student equitably while keeping it real in the real world."

Kathy Saxvold

Saxvold has taught 35 of her 36 years as a teacher in the Pequot Lakes School District. In her first year as a teacher she taught severely disabled children in an elementary school in Charles City, Iowa. After moving to Pequot Lakes she started working part time at the Backus Public School in a pilot Early Childhood Family Education program. That same year she was hired by Pequot Lakes part time as the first Early Childhood Special Education teacher.


A few years later the district started Early Childhood Family Education in Pequot Lakes and Saxvold was a teacher for both programs. She later switched to teaching Early Childhood Special Education full time.

Saxvold attended Brainerd Community College where she received an Associate in Arts degree in child development. She graduated from St. Cloud State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in special education. She is licenced to teach Early Childhood Special Education (birth to age 7) and developmentally cognitively delayed children. She later received her Master of Education degree from Southwest State University.

In the summer she volunteers at Vacation Bible School at Timberwood Church.

She has been involved in a variety of professional activities, including leadership team, two special education child study teams and various other committees.

Saxvold's philosophy of education: "Children with special needs will always have a special place in my heart. I want every child that walks through my classroom doors to feel important and loved. I want to help build their self-esteem so that they feel happy and are successful in learning and look forward to coming to school every day."

Ann Schommer

Schommer has spent nine of her 11 years as a teacher in the Pequot Lakes School District. She has also taught in Lancaster, California; Bozeman, Montana; and Grand Rapids. She has taught first, second, third and fifth grades, and has been a student council adviser.

Schommer received her Bachelor of Science in elementary education with an emphasis in early childhood from the University of North Dakota. She has been a chaperone for a mission trip to New Orleans to help rebuild homes after Hurricane Katrina and a volunteer with the Crosslake Youth Group where she has helped with plays and special events.


Schommer will retire from the Pequot Lakes School District this year.

Schommer's philosophy of education: "I always keep in mind that we never know what each child is dealing with in their life outside of school. I make it a point to make sure that every child feels safe and welcome in my classroom. It is important for me to provide several opportunities for my students to learn and to meet them at their individual levels while challenging them in their growth. At the end of the day, if my students leave my classroom with a feeling of value and acceptance for who they are, then I feel successful as a teacher."

Ben Starns

Starns has taught biology and other science-related classes during his 19 years in education. For the past six years, Starns has been a teacher at Pequot Lakes High School.

He has served as a student council adviser, Interact adviser, Lunch Bunch coordinator, STRIVE speaker, social activities coordinator and has participated in the Reality Store and Day of Caring. Starns has participated in the Polar Plunge and served on the high school Building Leadership and District Leadership teams.

Starns received his Bachelor of Science degree in education from North Dakota State University and his master's degree from St. Mary's University.

His philosophy of education: "All students should have the opportunity to learn in a safe and welcoming environment. I may be the only connection that a student may make on any particular day, so I have an obligation to be my best, every single day for my students."

Jamie Wagner


Wagner has been a teacher for eight years. Five of those years have been with the Pequot Lakes School District, where he has taught eighth grade World Languages and high school Spanish.

He has been a varsity assistant football coach, winter strength coach, head girls track coach and Student Leadership Council adviser.

Wagner received his Bachelor's Degree in Spanish and teaching licensure from Bethel University.

During his time with the district, he has served as a Minnesota State High School Coaches Association-track and field coaches association mentor. He also provides Spanish translation services to the district. Wagner was named the 2018 Section 6A Girls Track and Field Coach of the Year.

Wagner's philosophy of education: "I believe our call as educators is to create curiosity in students that drives them to go beyond simply acquiring information and become lifelong learners. That curiosity comes from a realization of what we don't know and getting curious with them. In doing this we build young people that use skills and passion to improve all areas of their lives. The skills learned in the classroom are not only intended to help them communicate with people who do not speak their language but also to provide them with tools to deal with success and failure appropriately throughout life. It is also my intent to expose students to the multiple views, perspectives and ways of living that exist in different cultures. In order to achieve any of this I feel it is first and foremost our responsibility to build relationships of trust and encouragement founded in a commitment to consistently demonstrated, disciplined action."

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